Hooga? Hhyooguh? Heurgh? No, “Hygge” is pronounced HOO-guh (with an old-timer car horn) which you may as well pronounce it right as it is ‘the key to happiness’ … or at least that’s what they say.
Hygge is a Danish term broadly translated as everything from “creating intimacy”, “cosiness of the soul”, “the absence of annoyance” to “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things”. Well … it seems the pronunciation isn’t that difficult after all.
But however broad and abstract the concept of hygge may be, it has become a hype so suddenly and inescapably that the word “Hygge” itself has received an extraordinary spike in coverage. In 2016, the figure of the word alone has shot up to more than 200 pieces in national newspaper, roughly speaking, that’s 400 per cent more than the year before. Not to mention, Hygge was named the word of the year by Oxford Dictionary alongside “Brexit” and “Trumpism”.
Exactly what the components of hygge are, is probably known to most readers thanks to internet and the avalanche of books about it. Sitting by the fireplace on a cold night, wearing big jumpers and woollen socks — that’s hyggelig (the adjectieve). Drinking mulled wine whilst listening to the stew boiling — that’s hyggelig too. Or, eating homemade cinnamon pastries watching TV under a duvet — hyggelig again. I hope you get the idea, but if not, I advise you go on Instagram or Pinterest and just #Hygge.
I agree they all sound oh-so-very-nice, but since when are we told how to be happy? You and I may enjoy different things yet, likewise, find happiness. And just because Denmark is ranked constantly among the happiest nations in the world are we supposed to follow its happiness guide? Perhaps Hygge is just another one of those overhyped trends that has been reinvented only among first-world hipsters with lots of digital followers … One way to find out: find out.
Kayleigh Tanner is multimedia journalist and blogger behind Hello Hygge. She has been hygge-ing and believes that the concept of hygge is nothing but simplicity. Kayleigh says that businesses and media are making profits out of the rising trend of hygge, when really hygge is a feeling achievable by just driving on a country side with something or someone comfortable.
First learned about hygge in a book Scandinavian Christmas, Kayleigh has become interested about it and started blogging about hygge. For her, doing hygge does make one happier.
Kayleigh’s version of Hygge isn’t that different from the already-bestseller: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking. This Danish author from the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen tells that Denmark has one of the happiest populations in the world (not only because they namesake pastry) and he believes Denmark can be a source of inspiration for how countries can increase quality of life.
In his book, Wiking said hygge is for everyone despite the concept not being identical. In other words, due to linguistic syntaxes we understand differently what activities contribute to hygge, yet the feelings of cosiness, warmth, and togetherness are ultimately what we all share. The word “Hygge” doesn’t exist in French, but there is ‘rire dans sa barbe’, a French concept of hygge, which means: to laugh in your beard quietly while thinking about something in the past. Or ‘utepils’, Norwegian, which means: to sit outside on a sunny day enjoying beer. Or ‘gattara’, Italian, meaning: an old woman who devotes her life to stray cats … you get the feels, right?
To Wiking, it all comes down to simplicity. To råhygge (verb form), all you need are: atmosphere (lighting), presence (no-phone zone), togetherness, gratitude, comfort, truce (no drama, no politics), shelter, and pleasure in food (of course).
(own photography from Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge)
We all know, hopefully, that food is happiness. The most famous hygge food ever advertised are perhaps freshly baked pastries with cinnamon and warm mulled wine. However, Brontë Aurell, a co-founder of ScandiKitchen and food writer has a different recipe to offer, it is not quite hygge but rather … lagom : La(r)-gum
Being able to speak to her on the phone, Brontë had told me about her writing several books about the concept of hygge and lagom and how lagom isn’t exactly the ‘new hygge’ as mainstream media understands: “Lagom relates the consumption of the right amount to equality by the equal allocation of resources”. In other words, Lagom means not too little, not too much. Different from hygge, as hygge is a feeling while lagom is rather a behaviour.
(credit:Ryland Peters & Small)
Danish TV dramas such as Borgen, The Killing and The Bridge are, by foreigners, sometimes referred to as ‘furniture porn’ as most scenes are shot in beautifully decorated houses and flats furnished with Danish design classics. In Wiking’s book, he admits Danes are obsessed with interior designs as homes or the ‘hygge headquarters’ are the central of social life and about 70 per cent of Danes experience hygge the most at home. So what does a Danish home look like? Let’s go to Oxford Circus (there’s Scandinavian Furniture Shop there)
Manuel, from Republic of Fritz Hansen, described that hygge is rather a ‘feeling’ than a material object. To him, hygge can be achieved by just talking with friends in cosy ambiance and despite all the hyggelig homes on Pinterest or Instagram, Manuel said: there isn’t such things as a hygge home or furniture — just simple lighting to set the mood will do.
More to the subject of furniture and decor, Scandinavian style and hygge share the same concept of simplicity and the rising trend of popularity; both are meant to be simple but with the trendy encouragement, seem to me both are growing and interacting symbiotically.
From this point I hope the stories of those living hyggelige (the adverb) have shown you how to hygge. Yet, is it any wonder perhaps 1.) Is living Danishly a way to pursue happiness for people from other parts of the world? 2.) Is hygge truly a philosophy of happiness or simply just an encouragement toward superior handicraft of Scandinavian designs, freshly baked pastries, and certain level of material wealth with ample leisure time?
Vanessa King, a board member at Action for Happiness and author of Ten Keys to Happier Living understands the increasing phenomenon of Hygge in Britain; it is a trend – yes – but she believes Hygge is part of a wider movement on what it really means to live well and what really matters.
To Vanessa, hygge, too, encompasses nurturing a sense of togetherness, a cosy and comfortable environment and our connection with nature. Also being mindful and enjoying the present moment. All of which can contribute to happiness … and for happiness other things are important too. For one to pursue happiness in everyday life, we should consider a range of actions that can also include taking care of ourselves physically, noticing our patterns of though and ensuring they are accurate (so we aren’t falling in to what she calls ‘thinking trap’), being clear on what really is meaningful in our lives and being kind to others and ourselves.
Coming back to hygge and happiness. I think I have finally realised that hygge functions as a driver for happiness in everyday life; it gives us the language, the trend, and eventually the objective to make ourselves happier and, more importantly, being able to preserve that sense. Indeed, it is sad to say that we live in such an era where simple happiness is taken for granted, so much that we need something(s) or ‘foreign utopia’ to remind ourselves what happiness feels like; when, really, happiness is not a quest nor a purchase but simply it is just … (whatever that is you are thinking of).
For now I am off for walk, listen to Stevie Wonder, and yes — I’ll take the cakes and woollen socks too.